The next phase in technological convergence will be harder than the last, because it can’t be solved with technology. Last time the devices converged, some phone makers just needed to buy a photoelectric detector, a lens, and licenses for some MP3 patents.

But how can the various tab-sized computers I carry – my bank cards, SIMs, passport, building door card, transport cards, office ID – be integrated, when they mean different things to different people? Technologically, it’s really bad to keep them separate because you can’t just hold a bag of RFID tokens up to a reader and expect the right thing to happen. Socially, it’s really bad to converge them; I can’t imagine my bank, employer, train conductor and government all agreeing to the same terms on identifying me, nor would one company be an acceptable clearing house for all of that so rather than N distinct tokens we’d end up with N tokens you can use Anywhere™*.

Turn and face the strange

I’ve made some changes around here, and they impact how both you and I interact with this blog.

Firstly, I added asides, which are untitled posts in the main stream. I think of them as something like Daring Fireball’s Linked List. I used to tweet links that interest me, but once I’ve put a link in a tweet I haven’t got much space to explain why it was interesting. Sometimes I post links to comedic articles and I don’t want to discuss their accuracy, for example. Bringing that sort of post over here removes an arbitrary length constraint, while still letting me distinguish between full posts and, well, asides.

The previous post is an aside. It’s untitled, and short, but otherwise looks the same as any other post. I might change that.

The second change is that I’ve turned comments (back) on, though only for posts published today or later. The arguments for turning comments off are well thought out and well-meaning, but don’t work out too well in practice.

  • They’re for a tiny minority. True, which means it shouldn’t be much effort to manage them.
  • comments on the web don’t contribute very much. Many don’t, but can be marginally useful to the post author. It’s common for an article to receive a comment that contains no more than “Typo?”. If I see that, I can correct the typo and delete the comment: you get a more accurate post and a more tidy comment stream, so it’s a net benefit.
  • Comments encourage unconsidered responses. and
  • Comments allow anonymity and separation of your words from your identity. Both true, but no more than the rest of the internet. And, indeed, no less: the question of whether anonymity or pseudonymity is to be welcomed or shunned is complicated (search for “real names policy”, for example).
  • Comments create a burden of moderation on the blog owner. Not too bad, if the “tiny minority” is commenting. I have a spam-detecting thing, and I’m never going to check it. If you don’t want to end up there, don’t try selling my readers herbal viagra.

In addition, having comments switched off dilutes the experience for those people who did want to see what people were talking about. There’d be some chat over on twitter (some of which mentions me, some of which doesn’t), and some over on the blog’s Facebook page. Then people will mention the posts on their favourite forums like Reddit, and a different conversation would happen over there. None of that will stop with comments on, and I wouldn’t want to stop it. Having comments here should guide people, without forcing them, to comment where everyone can see them.

Of course just because it’s possible to submit a comment here doesn’t mean I’ll publish it. I rule with an iron fist, and anything that I don’t think contributes won’t actually get allowed through.

Is Social Psychology Biased Against Republicans?

Pretty interesting, and an often unmentioned aspect of diversity (probably because political leaning is supposed to be a secret in democratic countries, if not because it’s usually acceptable to display ingroup/outgroup bias politically). But it’s very relevant in the social sciences, especially if it means that particular political views are more likely to be treated favourably or argued for by researchers.